RSA CONFERENCE 2019 – San Francisco – How much overlap exists between the worlds of comedy and cybersecurity? "Almost none," joked actress, writer, and producer Tina Fey in a closing keynote conversation with Hugh Thompson, RSA Conference program chair.
On the surface, she had a point. But a few parallels emerged as the two chatted onstage. For example, Thompson asked Fey about improvisation – a form of theater that, if you're not familiar, is founded on the premise of agreement. No matter what anyone says on an improv stage, the other actor(s) have to work with it. "Yes, and …" is a phrase core to improv, Fey explained. If another actor disagrees with a statement, the story stops and the show falls flat.
The audience laughed as Thompson put the idea of "yes, and" in a security context: "Someone walks into a room and says, 'Yes, we've been compromised,' … 'yes and, someone just found our data on a Russian website … 'yes, and somebody from the FBI's here.'"
Thompson turned the conversation to team building, where there also exists similarities with improv. As long as each actor contributes, the storyline is built. That said, Fey noted, you meet a lot of people who struggle with agreement, and those people don't have a place on the team.
"People who operate from a place of 'no' are very troubling to me," she added. You want the people on your team who bring ideas, who are willing to fully jump in. At "30 Rock," she said, her team would work 17-hour days, dedicating their time to the project at hand. "With improv, one of the biggest things is you need to lose your fear of failure and fear of embarrassment."
Fey also pointed out that "you want the most diverse room you can have," with a team of people who have different points of view. Thompson admitted the industry has been working more on diversity over the past few years, but "we're making just small progress."
When staffing a show, Fey said, she looks for both academic intelligence and emotional intelligence to contribute to a mix of skills and personalities. "You need people who are flexible, and people who are committed," she explained. And, finally, "don't hire anyone you wouldn't want to see in the hallway at three o'clock in the morning."
"That's true in our industry too," Thompson joked.
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